A Commentary by John Stott
Titus 2:13-14. The Epiphany of glory.
He who appeared briefly on the stage of history, and disappeared, will one day reappear. He appeared in grace; he will reappear in glory. In fact, this future epiphany of glory is the supreme object of our Christian hope, *while we wait for the blessed hope*, that is, the hope which brings blessing. How does Paul define it? He calls it *The glorious appearing of (literally, ‘the epiphany of the glory of’) our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ* (13).
There has been a long and lively debate whether the future epiphany is of two persons, namely ‘our great God (the Father)’ and ‘our Saviour Jesus Christ’, in which case Jesus is designated only ‘our Saviour’, or of one person, whose full title is spelled out as ‘our great God and Saviour’, in which case this is perhaps the most unambiguous declaration in the New Testament of the deity of Jesus. Surprisingly the AV opts for the former, whereas the NIV, REB and NRSV all opt for the latter.
There are five main arguments in favour of this latter, longer version. First, there is no definite article before the noun ‘Saviour’, which suggests that the one article covers both nouns. In Greek ‘nouns linked together by one article designate the same subject’. Secondly, the majority of the ancient Greek fathers understood the phrase in this way, ‘and they must have been able to appraise a Greek idiom’. The third argument adds theology to grammar. All the ten New Testament references to the two epiphanies are to Christ; nowhere is there any reference to an epiphany of ‘God’. Fourthly, the context most naturally requires the reference to be to Christ, since it goes on at once from his glory to his sufferings and death. Fifthly, the expression ‘God and Saviour’ was ‘a stereotyped formula common in first-century religious terminology’, normally referring to a single deity, and sometimes to the Roman Emperor.
Bishop Ellicott writes that it is difficult to resist the conviction that ‘our blessed Lord is here said to be our *megas Theos* [sc. “great God”], and that this text is a direct, definite, and even *studied* declaration of the divinity of the Eternal Son’. It should be added, however, as Lock does, that ‘the question is not one of doctrinal importance’. For if the reference is to two persons, Jesus Christ ‘is still placed on a level with the great God, as a manifestation of his glory, and as having effected Jehovah’s work of salvation’.
Already at his first coming it could be said that ‘we have seen his glory’ (Jn.1:14), for he ‘revealed his glory’ in his signs (Jn.2:11), and supremely in his death (E.g. Jn.12:23-24; 17:1ff.). Nevertheless, his glory was veiled, and many did not perceive it, or even suspect it. So one day the veil will be lifted, his glory will make an epiphany, and ‘we shall see him as he is’ (1 Jn.3:2).
Since this will be the epiphany of the glory of ‘our great God and Saviour’, who at his coming will perfect our salvation, Paul reverts naturally to his first epiphany when our salvation was begun. He *gave himself for us* on the cross. Why? Not just to secure our forgiveness (which the apostle does not mention here, though in 3:7 he refers to our justification), but also *to redeem us from all wickedness*, liberating us from its bondage, *and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good* (14).
Paul deliberately chooses Old Testament words and images from the beginnings of Israel as a nation, so as to portray Christ’s salvation as the fulfilment of these foreshadowings. Thus ‘gave himself for us’ (‘sacrificed himself for us’, REB) recalls the Passover sacrifice; ‘to redeem us’ the exodus redemption from Egyptian bondage; and ‘a people that are his very own’ the Sinaitic covenant by which Israel became Yahweh’s ‘treasured possession’. Paul uses the very expression *laos periousios* (‘chosen people’) which LXX uses (Ex.19:5; Dt.7:6; 14:2 26:18; cf. 1 Pet.2:9). Thus we enjoy a direct continuity with the Old Testament people of God, for we are his redeemed people and he is our Passover, our exodus and our Sinai.
Tomorrow: Titus: 2:13-14. b), The epiphany of glory (continued).
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.